Big Night Ahead For ACC, UNC In 2014 NBA Draft

The ACC’s finest and of course, some of Carolina’s will feature heavily in the 2014 NBA Draft set to get underway Thursday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

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Duke’s Jabari Parker has Joel Embiid to thank if he snags the top pick in this year’s NBA draft. Embiid, the standout freshman sensation at Kansas a season ago, has seen his stock slide due to his foot injury.

Regardless, Parker is set to make an immediate impact at the next level. The Cavaliers will have their eyes firmly set on Parker and another Jayhawk, Andrew Wiggins, for the top pick.

Another ACC star who should come off the draft boards early Thursday night is N.C. State’s T.J. Warren. Tar Heel fans will likely never forget the stunning duel between the Wolfpack star and UNC point guard Marcus Paige at PNC Arena in Raleigh a season ago.

T.J. Warren (

T.J. Warren (

Warren, who averaged 25 points per game last season, has made his final curtain call in ACC action, but most experts have the ACC Player of the Year’s draft stock rising thanks to his exceptional workouts.

Expect a team like the Orlando Magic, who could use a dynamic wing player, to nab Warren with the No. 12 selection.

Another intriguing prospect from Tobacco Road is the embattled P.J. Hairston. Hairston spent last season lighting up the NBA Development League in Texas. While there, he shot 45.3 percent from the floor and 87 percent at the free-throw line.

P.J. Hairston (Photo by Todd Melet)

P.J. Hairston (Photo by Todd Melet)

The Greensboro native will be hoping to squeeze into the lottery picks, but it’s more probable to see Hairston going somewhere between 15-24 in the selections.

By the way, the Charlotte Hornets are in need of some explosive offense and notably, have pick No. 24. So don’t rule out a short trip down to Charlotte for Hairston.

Duke’s Rodney Hood is expected to go early as well. At 6’8”, Hood has the size and shooting ability to attract general managers across the nation. Expect Hood to go somewhere in the 8-14 pick window.

Clemson’s K.J. McDaniels is another top prospect on this year’s draft board. His athleticism will have a lot of team executives salivating. McDaniels will likely sneak into the top 20 Thursday night.

The difference between being selected in the first and second round is huge. Getting picked in the first round guarantees a contract. Second-round selections aren’t promised anything.

And that’s why James Michael McAdoo’s decision to forego his senior season at Carolina was so puzzling. No analysts or draft gurus have the former Tar Heel going in the first round.

It should be a night mixed with suspense, relief, and celebration for many of the ACC’s brightest lights. All the hard work could pay off big-time with a dream realized and a massive check in tow.

They’ve thrilled fans everywhere with their sparkling play at the collegiate level, but the final chapter in their basketball career is set to begin.

Will We See The Old McDonald?

It’s difficult not to notice that as Leslie McDonald has gone of late, so have the Tar Heels.

McDonald, who returned to the lineup on Dec. 18 vs. Texas after missing the first nine games of the regular season for receiving impermissible benefits, had a solid game vs. the Longhorns with 15 points.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications

Like his teammates, however, McDonald struggled through a 3-of-8 effort at the free throw line in the 86-83 loss to the Longhorns. The Tar Heels were a dismal 24 of 47 at the charity stripe.

He went on to play fairly well in the next three games, netting a total of 34 points in wins over Davidson, Northern Kentucky and UNC-Wilmington. McDonald hit a respectable 11 of 23 field goal attempts, including 5 of 12 trey attempts.

McDonald has slumped severely in his last three tilts, though, failing to reach double-figure scoring in ACC setbacks to Wake Forest, Miami and No. 2 Syracuse.

He totaled just 19 points in all while hitting just 7 of 30 field goals. McDonald hasn’t stopped launching three-pointers, but hit just 3 of 17 attempts.

McDonald recently said he won’t be afraid to shoot, however, despite his struggles.

“You’ve got to keep looking forward and keep being aggressive. That’s the one thing. If your shot is not falling or you’re not very confident, keep being aggressive. As a team, we need to do that,” McDonald said.

McDonald, the lone scholarship senior on this season’s North Carolina roster, averaged 7.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in a reserve role in 2012-13. He was suspended for three games during his junior campaign for academic reasons.

UNC vs UNC Pembroke 001McDonald seemed contrite about his actions for the most recent ban, but was excited about his return.

“I feel blessed to play again for Carolina,” McDonald said in a UNC release at the time. “I truly regret putting my family, UNC and my teammates and coaches through this. I apologize to everyone who cares about the University of North Carolina and will do what I can to make up for it. You never know how much you love to play the game until you are not allowed to…”

Although head coach Roy Williams lost P.J. Hairston for the season in a similar matter when the program didn’t seek his reinstatement, he was pleased to have the talented McDonald return.

“Leslie has been a sensational teammate and worked hard in practice to help our team. He understands what he has already lost and wants to really enjoy this second chance. Leslie has one more semester to contribute to our team and finish his degree. I feel sure he will be truly dedicated to accomplishing both of those goals.”

The Tar Heels will need more from McDonald and his teammates as they take on Boston College Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center and hit the road for Monday’s tilt at Virginia. UNC returns home the following Sunday for a matchup vs. Clemson.

Chansky: The Fed-Up Factor

Frankly, who could blame Roy Williams if he got so fed up that he quit after the season?

Fans who are quick to criticize Ol’ Roy and those inside the university who have made his job harder and his life miserable ought to think about that.

royWhere would UNC be if another casualty of the three-year scandal was losing its Hall of Fame coach who is as sensitive as he is hard-nosed? He has enough problems with a 10-6 basketball team whose talent level is lower than in any other of his previous 10 seasons at Carolina, with no apparent pros on the roster.

It is conjecture, but how the P.J. Hairston story unraveled sure looks like Williams took one for the team in the decision to bounce his leading scorer for good. Both Williams and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham had said publicly that they expected Hairston back sometime this season, but they could no longer fight the mounting evidence.

After the announcement that UNC would not apply for Hairston’s reinstatement, Roy said he could understand the various points of view. And P.J.’s family expressed displeasure with the university’s decision. Both of those reactions would support the theory that it was not merely the NCAA’s call.

A more plausible explanation is that Hairston was heading for a substantial suspension until more damning evidence came to light while the UNC Board of Governors kept pushing for a stronger stand to demonstrate it was getting tough on athletics. So it looked like a Carolina basketball player was thrown out of the program for the first time in more than 50 years.

Then, of course, came the regrettable hyperbole by UNC learning specialist Mary Willingham that one of Williams’ players could not read or write. While most Tar Heel athletes are not Rhodes Scholar candidates, one of them being completely illiterate seems patently impossible. UNC admissions director Steve Farmer said as much.

On most campuses, there is a segment of the faculty that is either over-protective of the academic mission or anti-athletics, or both. At UNC, that segment has a louder voice than at many schools playing Division I sports, perhaps because former Athletic Director Dick Baddour came from the faculty side and did not do much to control the volume.

A constant push-pull between admissions and athletics does little to underscore the fact that big-time college sports is really a self-sustaining corporation that, in UNC’s case, balances a $75 million budget without financial help from the university. In fact, athletics often sends money across the street to South Building.

In its worst iteration, such an ongoing conflict can chase coaches away. That is NOT what UNC wants to do with Williams and Larry Fedora, whose high-profile programs are seen as the front porch of the university that help fund-raising, the applicant pool and branding through national exposure to the largest subculture in America.

When Willingham and faculty members like Jay Smith, who apparently have been concerned for years, take their cases to the regional and national media instead of trying to affect change from within, the question of motive arises.

Willingham supposedly gets off on being “ranked” on several whistle-blower websites. And Smith seems to like the role as ad-hoc spokesman for the faculty, appearing on sports talk shows and as one of the first sources the media contacts. Now he says he’s writing a book.

At the heart of this matter is the small percentage of “less prepared” athletes who are mostly black male football and basketball players. All schools who want to compete at the highest level in those sports must take some of these special admits.

And it seems logical they would be drawn to African-American history, like Jewish students take courses at the Center for Jewish Studies, musicians major in music, burgeoning actors take drama classes. It is their heritage, so why not study it?

What is wrong with admitting these kids, most of whom are being given the chance of a lifetime and come from communities that help them become great athletes but do not prepare them for college? Where would they go if they never received college scholarships? Probably nowhere.

There are likely as many 4.0 students who don’t graduate as these less-prepared kids who might have undiscovered learning disabilities or who just test poorly. With the proper help, they can improve their lives dramatically by getting athletic scholarships. A few will become pro athletes, but others will benefit from the socialization they receive on campus and make alumni contacts that could lead to good jobs when they get out of school. Some may even go back to their communities and help the next generation of kids get better prepared for college.

Isn’t that a mission of a state university?

So what do we have here? Some academic procedures and principles that were violated and have since been corrected. And a continuing controversy that the national press has jumped all over to report on issues they really know very little about. Mostly, a prevailing feeling that the story will never end and keep hurting our reputation and attempts to move beyond it.

Photo by Todd Melet

Photo by Todd Melet

About this time in Roy Williams’ 15-year tenure at Kansas, he had some problems with an administration that had turned over. It led him to break his pledge to remain at KU and eventually come back to UNC, where he has had even more success as a coach than he did in Lawrence.

At 63, he is unlikely to go to another school or an NBA team. But with grandchildren he adores, more money saved up than he could ever spend and on-again, off-again health issues, Williams could reach the point where he feels under-appreciated and decides to walk away.

A long shot, probably, but a scenario worth thinking about for some people who are letting ego, grandstanding or their prejudices toward athletics and athletes dictate some destructive actions.

Chansky: “This Is Stupid”

CHAPEL HILL – P.J. Hairston’s citation for reckless driving Sunday afternoon outside Salisbury adds to his June arrest for possession of marijuana and driving without a license in which the charges were dropped and a speeding charge from May.

“This is stupid,”’s Art Chansky says. “I can’t think of another word.”

Chansky is also the host of Sport’s Notebook on WCHL.

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Chansky says perception now plays a major role in the future of Carolina basketball and Hairston’s role in it.

“Well, I think Roy was in a tough situation to begin with, because even though all the charges were dropped, we’re still–as we’ve talked about for many weeks now–we’re still talking about the perception and appearance for the sake of the University, which is maybe something that should not be heaped on one player,” Chansky says. “But, nevertheless, it’s kind of an ongoing story with our athletic department.”

UNC Athletics released a statement Sunday evening stating Hairston is suspended from the team indefinitely. Before Sunday’s citation and before the June 5 charges were dismissed, the only other statement released by Williams said in part, “PJ and I have had several discussions already and he knows he has made serious mistakes and there will be serious consequences as a result.”

“What comes of this now, I think, is going to depend on how P.J. reacts to this and how Roy and Bubba Cunningham decide how they want to proceed because of just what it looks like,” Chansky says.

Hairston Was Driving SUV Rented To Other In the Car

DURHAM – The man who rented out the SUV in which UNC’s P.J. Hairston was found in possession of marijuana, told ABC 11 that he has no ties to the UNC basketball program, sports agents, or Hairston.

Haydn Patrick “Fats” Thomas said Hairston was driving the vehicle that was rented by Mykael Faulcon, who was in the car and also charged along with Carlos Sanford. Hairston also carries a charge of driving without a license, which is how the search began at a checkpoint in Durham.

Durham Police also found a 9mm handgun on the ground near where the three were arrested. Officials are reporting that a fingerprint test is being done on the weapon but is not yet complete.

Thomas said he doesn’t believe the gun belongs to any of the men who were arrested. He also said he’s never rented a vehicle to any athlete.


The hashtags started flying like PJ Hairston’s jump shots in Chestnut Hill on Tuesday night.


Hairston was finally blossoming into the player Roy Williams called “the best shooter he has ever recruited” in the first half against Boston College, and seemingly every UNC student with a Twitter was taking notice. Igniting the team with fourteen points in just twelve minutes of action, Hairston was making a strong case to replace Dexter Strickland in the starting lineup at shooting guard as an offensive catalyst. Then, disaster struck.

It was an incredibly odd scene to watch unfold. At UNC, we consider the basketball players to be demigods. They are stronger, faster, and more athletic than is seemingly imaginable. To steal a line from Austin Powers, women want to be with them, and men want to be them. Seeing one of these superheroes hurt so badly, unable to walk without support, was jarring. If you aren’t reminded every once in awhile, you can sometimes forget that basketball players are human, too. That reality, that athletes are also vulnerable, was all too apparent on Tuesday.

Tasteless jokes that Strickland hit PJ on purpose to save his job aside, the outpouring of support for Hairston was tremendous. Everyone quickly grasped the severity of the injury and the implications for the team. Without Hairston, our bench is reduced to Leslie McDonald (coming off injury and suspension), freshman forwards, and Blue Steel. For this team to finish strong and make a run in the NCAA Tournament, Hairston’s return will be key. Without him, Carolina will struggle, as they demonstrated with a lackluster effort in the second half against a weak Boston College team. Even with McDonald returning against Virginia Tech, the UNC bench managed just thirteen points, one fewer than Hairston alone had in his limited action at BC. That it took the best performances to date by James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige to beat the middling Hokies (at home, in overtime, no less) is both troubling and promising. While McAdoo and Paige are unlikely to play at such a high level on a consistent basis for the remainder of the season, the knowledge that they might is what UNC fans can hold onto until Hairston is back.

As someone who suffered a mild concussion earlier this year (intramural soccer is a dangerous business), the after-effects can linger for a long time after the injury. Physical ability may not be hindered after the first few minutes, but mental thought processes are often slower and reaction time to new information can suffer markedly. While everyone responds differently to brain injuries, the trauma that Hairston suffered is very serious. He probably doesn’t have the most beautiful countenance on the team to begin with, but his vacant stares from the bench are indicative of a player that won’t be fully recovered for some period of time. Even if he does recover quickly, there is an increased risk for a more severe concussion if he is hit again.

The trainers at campus health recommended that I not resume physical activity for at least three weeks following my concussion, though I get the feeling that PJ may be pressured to play sooner. The mysterious and somewhat subjective nature of brain injuries makes it possible that Hairston’s own evaluation of his injury and his desire to play will partially dictate when he returns to action, a potentially dangerous proposition.

For everyone’s sake, I just hope that #PJBeHealing.

image by todd melet

Breakdown: PJ Hairston

P.J. Hairston is the most indispensable player on the North Carolina Tar Heel basketball team. 

First, take a minute and let that sink in.

Now here’s why:

Hairston brings a toughness and intensity to the Tar Heels that doesn’t exist when he’s not on the court. He’s one of only a couple guys on the team that consistently attacks the basket with aggression and purpose. With the mentality of a star player, PJ’s confidence spreads throughout his teammates. Whichever term you want to put to it, the entire team is inspired by his play and brings their best effort to the court just by playing alongside him. This ability is priceless. He has to play as much as possible for UNC to be at its best.

Hairston also has tremendous versatility. He can play three different positions on both sides of the floor, and he uses his strength and basketball IQ to succeed against players of all sizes. He sets great screens, hustles on defense to take charges and get in the passing lanes, and can play outside or in the post.

Not all players can come off the bench on fire like Danny Green. Hairston shoots the ball much better when he’s in rhythm, and it’s really tough to get there when you’re playing inconsistent minutes in short spurts. Despite his slumps, his shots are never far from the mark, always missing either long or short. This is the sign of a great shooter, and he’ll find the range once he’s given the freedom to play his game.

PJ is the most talented scorer and most tenacious competitor on the team, and he takes care of the ball. His immense value was on display in the Heels’ best performance of the year against UNLV. Under no circumstances should a team play better with its most consistent player out with an injury, but that’s how important P.J. Hairston is to this team. His 32 minutes was by far a season high, and he’ll need to play that much or more for the Tar Heels to make the NCAA tournament.

Next week’s feature… Brice Johnson


You can follow Josh on Twitter @HoopVisions


(image by Todd Melet)